Explainer: New ACT-NSW travel restrictions and border bubble, including approved postcodes and reasons

The ACT is about to take its first steps out of a nine-week lockdown, but residents are probably more confused about cross-border travel than they've been since August.

The ACT government and NSW governments are working to try to find common ground for interstate movement and it is hoped there will be more clarity later in the week.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr added 17 new postcodes to the Canberra bubble on Wednesday, but in the process left many scratching their heads about the reasons for travel.

Here's everything we know so far about travelling between NSW and the ACT from Friday.

What NSW postcodes are approved for travel?

Goulburn, Gundagai, Cooma and Jugiong are some of the new border partners allowed to enter the ACT as of Friday. The new travel arrangement, however, comes with a catch.

Anyone wanting to enter the ACT can do so only for approved reasons. They also must not have been outside of approved Canberra bubble zones for the past 14 days.

If they do move outside of the zone, they must quarantine for 14 days when entering Canberra.

The approved reasons for travel to the ACT are work or study, to access schools, essential shopping or healthcare. They can also travel to Canberra to visit family and friends.

COVID-19 compliance activities will be conducted by ACT Policing and NSW Police at the Federal Highway border crossing. Picture: Keegan Carroll

COVID-19 compliance activities will be conducted by ACT Policing and NSW Police at the Federal Highway border crossing. Picture: Keegan Carroll

ACT Health, however, said on social media residents in the border bubble would be able to visit Canberra to attend licensed venues, cafes and restaurants for "seated service".

"You must first ensure you are permitted to travel under NSW public health orders before entering the ACT," ACT Health said.

"You must also comply with the ACT public health directions."

Mr Barr had a different view, which has caused the confusion. "You're not coming in to go to the pub, but if you are here for work or one of the agreed or approved reasons, the range of activities you can undertake when you are here includes those other Canberrans will be able to enjoy from Friday."

Border checks will continue in NSW and the ACT, with the assistance of the Australian Defence Force.

I live in one of approved NSW postcodes. Can I travel to the ACT?

Yes, travel is slowly restarting. But despite the confusion, the ACT government's COVID-19 website says there are only a handful of reasons for NSW approved postcodes to travel to Canberra.

From Friday, they are to: to work or study, access childcare and school, essential shopping, healthcare, child access, to provide or receive care, access emergency care not available in your area, fulfill legal obligations and attend a wedding or a funeral, visit another household in line with ACT gathering limits, essential animal welfare purposes, access care services otherwise not available and access any other essential services otherwise not available.


"ACT Policing will be undertaking compliance checks across the ACT and you will be expected to provide proof of residential address and the reason you are moving about the ACT community," ACT Health said.

Can ACT residents travel to approved NSW postcodes?

NSW will allow ACT residents to cross the border, but only for reasons they deem necessary.

Canberrans won't be able to go to Queanbeyan or Yass to socialise, but they can move across the border if they work in NSW, need to access childcare or school, animal welfare or attending weddings or funerals.

But leaving Canberra to move into NSW comes with its own complications. NSW does have a vaccination requirement which only allows fully vaccinated people to travel and undertake non essential activities. This will also apply to ACT residents in any area of NSW.

NSW residents will be able enter the ACT for work or essential services, and then return home without needing to adhere to stay at home orders.

Will I need to fill out a declaration form or quarantine if I enter NSW?

ACT residents will not need to apply for an exemption, fill out a declaration form, quarantine or follow stay-at-home orders on return to the territory if they visit a NSW approved postcode for any of the approved reasons.

If you had travelled to any NSW postcode outside the approved bubble within the last 14 days, you would have to apply for an exemption.

Will I need to fill out a declaration form or quarantine if I enter the ACT?

NSW residents in any of the approved postcodes are able to travel to the ACT for work or medical care - including accompanying someone else for medical care - without completing a declaration form or following stay-at-home rules when they return.

However, if you travel to the ACT for any other reason, you will be required to fill out a declaration form before coming back in NSW, and follow stay-at-home rules.

When will there be free travel between ACT and NSW?

The restrictions around travel between ACT and NSW are expected to ease further from October 29.

Asked if NSW had told the ACT government when they would lift stay at home requirements on ACT travellers, Mr Barr said: "I think there is an expectation that will happen later this month when they cross a particular vaccination threshold.

"The two questions I get asked are when can I go to the coast and when can I go to Sydney. I don't think either of those are likely in the short-term, in the next week or so, but they look very likely in November."

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This story These are the new ACT-NSW border travel rules first appeared on The Canberra Times.